ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israeli troops and tanks pushed deeper into Gaza City today as
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepared to travel to the Middle
East to press for a truce between Israel and Palestinian militants.
Planes dropped bombs and gun battles erupted in the early morning hours
today - the latest moves in an Israeli offensive to stop cross-border
rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. More than 900 Palestinians and
at least 13 Israelis have died in the fighting.
Mr. Ban leaves later today on a Middle East tour with stops in Israel,
the West Bank, Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Kuwait.
RUSSIA EUROPE GAS: Russia says Ukraine is now blocking deliveries of Russian natural gas to Europe.
Earlier today, Russia's state-controlled gas
company, Gazprom, said it had resumed pumping gas to Europe through
Ukrainian pipelines, after a six-day cutoff that left millions of
Europeans freezing in some of the coldest temperatures of the winter so
Russia supplies about one-quarter of Europe's natural gas supplies.
Most of that is shipped through pipelines that run across Ukraine.
Russia cut off gas piped to Europe last week, accusing Ukraine of stealing from the transit lines.
US - CONFIRMATION - CLINTON: U.S. Secretary of State nominee Senator Hillary Clinton is set to
appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today
for a confirmation hearing. Officials with President-elect Barack
Obama's transition team say the
former first lady and presidential candidate is expected to promise the
senators a renewal of American leadership and a revitalization of U.S.
The officials say Clinton will endorse the use of what they describe as
"smart power" by the United States, and the use of all of the country's
tools of foreign policy.
OBAMA - AFGHANISTAN: A published report says the incoming Obama administration will conduct
a complete review of the U.S. military's mission in Afghanistan.
"The Washington Post" says today President-elect
Barack Obama will approve a Pentagon plan to send up to 30-thousand
more troops to Afghanistan, which would nearly double the current U.S.
The newspaper says Mr. Obama's national security team does not expect
the new deployments to significantly improve conditions in Afghanistan,
but will help give the administration enough time to reappraise the
situation and develop a comprehensive new strategy.
US - CHINA: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says the diplomatic relationship
between the United States and China is the most important one in the
Mr. Carter made the comment on Monday during a ceremony in Beijing to
mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic
relations between the two former Cold War rivals.
The former president and then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping announced
the normalization of relations on January first, 1979, after several
years of secret negotiations.
Mr. Carter said President-elect Barack Obama had asked him to extend
his personal greetings to Chinese leaders.
NOKOR NUCLEAR: South Korean officials said today that a nuclear envoy
will visit North Korea this week to discuss the possible purchase of
unused fuel rods from the North's plutonium-producing reactor.
A foreign ministry spokesman said deputy chief nuclear envoy Hwang
Joon-Kook would lead a delegation scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang
North Korea is disabling its Yongbyon nuclear plants under a 2007 six-nation aid-for disarmament deal.
Seoul has expressed interest in buying the North's unused fuel rods if
they can be adapted to work at South Korea's nuclear power plants.
INDONESIA - FERRY: Indonesian authorities have resumed their search for more than 200
people missing and feared dead from a ferry accident early Sunday.
Authorities said at least 34 people, including the captain, have been
rescued off the west cost of Sulawesi island. One dead body was also
recovered on Monday.
Officials said hopes of finding more survivors faded as rough seas
hampered rescue efforts more than 48-hours after the ferry sank.
Indonesia's transport minister says
the ferry's captain, who survived, is under investigation for setting
out to sea despite weather agency warnings of stormy conditions.
WORLD FREEDOM SDBR EAST ASIA: A new global survey shows that more than half of the world's people who lack basic freedoms live in China.
In its annual report Monday, the U.S. based organization Freedom House
says one-third of the world's population lives in 42 countries
designated as "not free." And nearly 60 percent of that number live in
The report notes China's failure to enact significant democratic
reforms, or gestures towards improved human rights, during the year it
hosted the Olympic Games. The report says this was the most
disappointing development in 2008.
THAILAND - TORTURE: The rights group Amnesty International has accused Thailand's police
and military of routinely torturing suspects in their fight against an
insurgency in the country's Muslim-majority south.
The group said today that at least four people
have died as a result of torture in the southernmost provinces, where
35 hundred people have been killed in a five-year separatist rebellion.
Donna Guest, Amnesty's deputy Asia director, said torture is absolutely illegal and alienates the local population.
Guest said that while rebels had engaged in brutal acts, nothing justifies the security forces' reliance on torture.
Listen to our World News for details.